Ever since Governor Bradford of Plymouth Colony initiated the festival of Thanksgiving in 1621, it has been part of the American experience, belonging to this nation and to all “the inhabitants thereof.” While President Washington declared “Thanksgiving” a national holiday for the first time on Thursday, November 26, 1789, it was observed intermittently. President Lincoln made it an annual event on the last Thursday of November. President Roosevelt put it on the fourth Thursday.

On the virtue of gratitude:

“Only the sensitive, the civilized, give thanks. The brutish, the barbarous, take for granted. They take from God. They take from nature. They take from humankind. They give nothing. There are people slightly less sensitive who give token thanks, verbal begrudging. There are people half-sensitive who give formal thanks, lest others doubt their breeding. And there are people, the sensitive, the civilized, who give whole thanks: with tongue, mind, heart, and hand.” –Rabbi Ely Pilchik (1914-2003)

“Tradition teaches that we are obligated to say the word: Thank you!” Babylonian Talmud, Berachot 54b (6th century C.E.)

 “K’sh-y’hudi shover regel, hu modeh L’AdonaiWhen Jews break a leg, they should thank God that they didn’t break both; and when they break both legs, they should thank God that they didn’t break their necks.Jewish proverb

“In the time to come all prayers of petition will be annulled, but the prayer of gratitude will not be annulled.” Midrash Rabbah, Leviticus 9:7 (5th century C.E.)

“A Chasid was asked: ‘What is stealing?’ He replied, ‘A person steals when enjoying the benefits of the earth without giving thanks to God.” cited by Rabbi Harvey Fields (1935-2014), Bechol Levavcha, p. 94

“How strange we are in the world, and how presumptuous our doings! Only one response can maintain us: gratefulness for witnessing the wonder, for the gift of the unearned right to serve, to adore, and to fulfill. It is gratefulness which makes the soul great.” –Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972)

“Silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone.” Gladys Brown Stern (1890-1973)

“When I started counting my blessings my whole life turned around.” Willie Nelson (b. 1933)

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.” Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

“When you arise in the morning give thanks for the morning light, for your life and strength. Give thanks for your food and the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies in yourself.” Native American Prayer, Techumseh Tribe

“I offer thanks to You, Sovereign Source and Sustainer of life, Who returns to me my soul each morning faithfully and with gracious love.” The Jewish daily morning service

Happy Thanksgiving to you all!